Senior Conservatives will today tell the prime minister to set a firm date to step down rather than being forced out by her own MPs.

Theresa May is holding talks with members of the executive of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, as the clamour for a change in party rules to enable a leadership challenge grows.

At the moment no one can stand against her until December.

1922 committee treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told the Press Association: It would be infinitely preferable if she set a date rather than us force her out.

It’s better that she does it than we have a vote of confidence.

What I would like to see is her set out a timetable to trigger a leadership contest.

Next week’s EU elections are expected to heap more misery on the Conservatives and it is expected that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be defeated when its presented to the Commons in June.

The legislation writes the Brexit agreement into law and represents a fresh attempt to secure Parliament’s support for a deal which has already been rejected three times by MPs, including the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a
government.

Another defeat would be the final nail in the coffin for the agreement Mrs May negotiated with the EU, a fact not lost on the Brexit secretary.

Stephen Barclay said it would lead to more fundamental questions about whether to stop Brexit or leave the EU with no deal.

(c) Sky News 2019: Tory MPs to Theresa May: Set a date to step down or we’ll force you out